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Understandably, people who love are brave and courageous. A person who loves another must be ready to lay down everything, human life included, for the love of the beloved. Jesus Christ Himself says that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Love is very far from the nice and warm romantic feeling that we usually associate with teenage crushes and young people in love. Love calls for a great deal of courage and bravery. Lovers cannot be cowards.

But the other equally important side of bravery and courage is that we become such persons because we know that we are loved. It is not only that you love somebody and are, therefore, willing to fight for that love. It is also important that we know that we are loved and that we are appreciated precisely by somebody important to us.

Bravery and courage are fruits not only of the exercise of loving but also the exercise of being loved unconditionally and unlimitedly.

A few weeks ago, we had an exhibition of priests’ vestments at San Carlos Seminary, my alma mater. They were very beautiful and nicely designed vestments for the liturgy. I liked many of the vestments on exhibit, but I was not prepared to get one for myself. I did not bring enough money. I tried fitting one vestment that I liked particularly. I told the salesboy, “I will return tomorrow to pay for it. Please reserve this for me.” Msgr. Chito Bernardo, a friend whom I admire and respect so highly, heard me and offered to pay and gave the vestment to me as a gift. I declined because I was too shy to accept that unexpected gift. He dropped a statement that sounded like a brotherly rebuke: “Why is it so hard for you to accept love? Why don’t you give others a chance to love you? Why should you always be the one serving us? I insist that I give this to you and that you be humble to accept love.” I accepted the gift. That vestment has become extra special for me.

We should give others a chance to love us.

Loving is also receiving love. Is it not true that sometimes, it is so much easier to give love and so difficult to accept love? Even compliments, how we cringe or dismiss it so politely by saying, “Hindi naman.” Sometimes, by letting people love us, we can show we love them.

I remember the case of the loving wife who gets up early in the morning to prepare her husband’s clothes for the day. She takes the pain of matching everything from a dress shirt to pants, necktie, socks, etc. Listening to the story offhand, we might be tempted to jump to conclusions and say, “Wow, what a spoiled brat of a husband she has. It is her fault. She is spoiling him. Sobra naman pa-martir yung wife na yan.” And many other derogatory remarks may be hurled at this couple because we fail to see it from their point of view.

Yet, the other angle to the story is that this could very well be a loving gesture on the husband’s part to allow her to do this. What if the husband, who really has a mind of his own, does not feel like wearing what the wife brought out? It could entail some amount of sacrifice and dying to self for the husband too. But the fact remains that this is the wife’s expression of love, and the husband reciprocates by accepting her love in this form and expression. Can you imagine how terrible she would feel if her husband chose not to wear what she chose? Can you imagine how she would question her self-worth if she could no longer do this for him? The idea is not whether putting out clothes for one’s husband is acceptable behavior. The point here is this is their expression of love. Love is communicated. There is a receiver and a giver. Only then will love work. It is two ways. It is not a question of being right, as most people tend to argue. The question is: Am I loving? If the answer is “yes,” that’s the way to go.

Because of the mandate of the Lord that we serve and love one another, we have put our hearts into the task of being loving persons. Because the Lord said: I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many, we have set our hearts on giving and giving even more, on serving and serving even more. We hardly pay attention to the other Gospel accounts when the Lord allowed His feet to be washed by the sinful woman or when He allowed Himself to be served a good meal by the sisters of Lazarus in Bethany. We would rather play blind to the scene of the Lord, allowing the disciple whom He loved to lay his head on the master’s chest. In other words, as the Lord gave love and served, He also allowed others to love Him and to serve Him.

Somebody who sets his heart on the mission of service but refuses to be served can be a high risk for the community. Somebody who accepts the task of teaching but refuses to recognize his need to be taught is a liability to the organization. Somebody who sets his heart to the task of making others holy but fails to recognize his own need to be blessed and prayed for is a danger to the Church community.

Loving without measure is the litmus test of Christianity. But giving others a chance to serve us, to love us, to teach us, and to sanctify us is the litmus test of Christian humility. Humility is the crown of all virtues. Let us love one another. Let us give one another a chance to love us too.

Jesus Our Light

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